Monday, August 20, 2007

Robert Louden

Robert Louden is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of Kant's Impure Ethics: From Rational Beings to Human Beings (OUP, 2000) and Morality and Moral Theory: A Reappraisal and Reaffirmation (OUP, 1992), co-editor and translator of Kant, Anthropology, History, and Education (CUP, 2007) and Kant, Lectures on Anthropology (CUP, 2008), translator of Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (CUP, 2006), editor of Schleiermacher's Lectures on Philosophical Ethics (CUP, 2002), and co-editor of The Greeks and Us (University of Chicago Press, 1996).

His new book is The World We Want: How and Why the Ideals of the Enlightenment Still Elude Us (Oxford University Press).

I recently asked him what he was reading. His reply:
1) Leopold Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing. This book, originally published in German in 1756 & written by Wolfgang Amadeus's father, is still in print with Oxford University Press. It was the major work of its period on the violin. I'm an amateur violinist, & first turned to the book because I am a big fan of W. A. Mozart's violin sonatas. However, I'm happy to report that Leopold studied philosophy & logic at Salzburg University before embarking on a music career. There is more than a little philosophy in this classic violin text.

2) Frans de Waal, Primates & Philosophers: How Morality Evolved (Princeton U. Press, 2006). This book is a quasi-debate between those who hold that morality has its roots in our evolutionary past, & those who believe that morality is part of what sets human beings apart from other animals. Based on de Wahl's 2004 Tanner Lectures, it includes responses by Robert Wright, Christine M. Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher, and Peter Singer. Both sides of the debate are well represented, and in listening to all parties present their arguments & data the old question "what exactly do we mean by 'morality'?" takes on a new significance.

3) J. A. May, Kant's Concept of Geography and its Relation to Recent Geographical Thought (University of Toronto Press, 1970). This book is out of print, but I located a 2nd hand copy last week through I looked briefly at it 10 years ago when I was doing research for my book Kant's Impure Ethics (Oxford U. Press, 2000), & am taking a closer look at it now for a new piece I'm writing about Kant's physical geography lectures. The author died in 1989, & this work (a revised version of his Ph.D. dissertation) is, I believe, the only book he published. For those interested in what I call the 'impure' Kant (i.e, the empirical Kant), it is a gold mine of information.

4) Stephen Darwall, The Second-Person Standpoint: Morality, Respect, and Accountability (Harvard U. Press, 2006). I'm reading this book with other members of an ethics reading group that meets monthly at Bowdoin College. Am not sure that I would have taken a look at it if it hadn't been on the reading group's list. But this is part of the purpose of reading groups: to cajole us into reading things that we otherwise wouldn't pay attention to....
Visit Robert Louden's university homepage to learn more about him and his work, and to read the answer to "Why Philosophize?"

Learn more about The World We Want at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue